Blingy performance! Yeah, maybe it’s not a real word, but you get the idea. When it comes to enhancing your car with a blend of show and go-fast parts, it becomes a juggling act. It is almost like you’re going for that James Bond blend of performance-oriented elegance. Show parts aren’t looked upon as performance pieces under a lot of circumstances. Billet Specialties is one of the exceptions. They have added another line to their front drive systems for LS-based engines and we are going to install one on a GM LS3 crate engine.
LSX engines have become the engine of choice over the last few years, for everything from Civics to classic muscle cars, and a plethora of aftermarket companies offer swap kits for many popular platforms. Those who can afford to do so use brand new crate engines, which do not come with accessories. So when it comes to building even a Resto-mod, who wants to settle for the stock appearing and functioning parts?
Pro Touring is a growing trend consisting of people who like to take their nicely restored classic cars out on the autocross during the weekends. With style and performance being equally matched, Pro Touring guys need parts that perform as well as they look. That’s where Billet Specialties comes in.
Nearly Twenty Five Years and Counting
Since 1985, Billet Specialties has been in the business of building not only good looking engine trim parts, but also go-fast goodies like their front drive systems and their lightweight, multi-piece wheels. Glenn Grozich, founder of Billet Specialties, started out making parts for his personal car before starting the business.
After many years of success in the industry, dealers eventually began asking them to develop a front drive system. “Our first front drive system was the small block Chevy, Big Block, then to the Fords and it grew from there,” explained Scott Sandoval of Billet Specialties. Billet Specialties currently occupies a 100,000 square foot manufacturing facility.
The Billet Specialties Top Mount Tru Trac Serpentine Drive System
“When it comes to designing a front drive system, you want to keep the accessories as close to the engine as possible and within the silhouette,” says Sandoval. “We see what the accessories position is and what we are going need for belt rap so you don’t have issues with the belt slipping. We then research the different platforms the engine is used for, researching things like steering box location and how much room is in the engine bays. We also look at the size of the factory pulleys and what kind of RPM’s they are running at, so we can spin it like it was designed to do. We use brands people are familiar and comfortable with when it comes to selecting accessories.”
The Top Mount LS Tru Trac kit is the simplest and most complete LS kit Billet Specialties offers. The standard LS kit utilizes a standard bell type water pump and crank pulley. According to Sandoval, “This was our first LS kit that was designed to replace the existing drive system on an LS motor that was based around an OEM water pump and dampener.”
The Top Mount kit comes with an ATI Super Dampener and an Edelbrock water pump, all tightened by a simple, single tensioner. “Once proper dampeners and water pumps were available, we were able to redesign the kit like the other Tru Trac systems,” Sandoval tells us.
Other quality accessories include a polished Power Master 105 amp one-wire alternator and a Mavel power steering pump. The A/C version comes with a polished Sanden SD-7 compressor, billet clutch cover, and a patented billet compressor manifold.
For the Billet Specialties made parts, it includes all precision-machined billet brackets that have been thoroughly tested to ensure proper belt alignment to prevent slipping. The brackets are all extremely thick with rounded edges and are polished to perfection. ARP fasteners are included for mounting the brackets in all of the factory locations. All of the bolts in the kit are stainless steel, to match the shine from the brackets and prevent rusting.
Included with the brackets and accessories are the associated pulleys: the AC, water pump, alternator (with fan), power steering, crank, and idler pulley. As with the brackets, all of the pulleys are one-piece billet. Tying all of the pulleys together is a single Goodyear Gatorback 6-rib serpentine belt. We chose the polished kit, but Billet Specialties also offers a black anodized finish as well.
Tru Trac Serpentine Systems Include:
• ATI Super Damper – SFI 18-1 certified
• Polished PowerMaster 105 amp one-wire alternator
• Billet aluminum one-piece alternator fan & pulley
• Cast finish Edelbrock water pump
• Billet aluminum water pump pulley
• Billet aluminum bridge bracket
• Patent-pending billet aluminum tensioner
• Billet aluminum tensioner pulley
• Billet aluminum crankshaft pulley
• Polished ARP 12-point stainless steel fasteners
• Goodyear Gatorback 6-rib serpentine belt
• Comprehensive installation manual
• Select pulleys are hard-coat anodized for increased durability in high wear areas
Kits With AC Include:
• Polished Sanden SD-7 AC compressor
• Billet aluminum AC compressor clutch cover
• Patented billet aluminum AC compressor manifold
Kits With Power Steering Include:
• Cast finish Maval power steering pump with AN fittings
• Billet aluminum power steering pulley
Finish: Polished or Black Anodized
Installing the Billet Specialties Tru Trac System on an LS3
Fortunately, since the engine was on a stand and not in a car, it was going to take significantly less time to get this Tru Trac kit installed on the engine. If you are putting this on an installed engine, you may need to remove items like the radiator and fans. Depending on your application, you may also need some of the following tools Billet Specialties recommends.
J-41665 Crankshaft balancer and sprocket installer
J-41478 Crankshaft front oil seal installer – Uses threaded rod and nut only
J-42386-A Flywheel holding tool
J-45059 Angle Meter
First we removed the stock water pump and crank pulley to make way for our new pieces. The ATI Balancer is two-piece in design. This is where our specialty tool came in handy. The balancer is then installed with allen bolts and is held on by a new crankshaft bolt that is torqued to a final minimum torque spec of 236 ft/lbs.
The Edelbrock water pump installs on four studs that must be set to a length of three inches. The kit also includes new water pump gaskets.
On the driver's side, we installed the alternator bracket that is secured by two spacer nuts. For the time being, the spacer nuts are installed without a bracket.
Next we installed the compressor bracket onto the water pump mounting tabs above the Edelbrock stamp. The rear compressor bracket is held on with the center mounting hole of the AC compressor bracket.
Next up is the tensioner bracket and the tensioner. The tensioner bracket utilizes the two standoffs that were installed on the passenger side of the water pump, right below the Edelbrock stamp. The tensioner then mounts to the bracket in three locations. The large polished nut on the tensioner serves as the actual tension adjustment and does not need adjustment at this point.
Wrapping up the A/C brackets is the Billet Specialties etched compressor bridge bracket - the largest one in the kit. The bracket installs with two allen head bolts onto the face of the tensioner.
The Tru Trac etched alternator bridge bracket is attached with two allen bolts to the front of the first installed alternator bracket on the driver's side of the water pump.
It was time to take a break from installing brackets to move on to the pulleys. The first pulley we installed was on the water pump. Make sure you apply LocTite to the threads of the four socket head cap screws.
The next pulley to be installed was the traditional three bolt style crank pulley that properly affixes to the front of the ATI dampener. Once again, make sure you apply LocTite to the three socket head cap screws before installing. Install the Belleville washers on the cap screws facing away from the head of the fasteners.
Time for the accessories.
The A/C compressor was first up on the list of accessories to install. We placed the compressor between the bridge bracket and compressor/tensioner bracket, aligning the compressor bosses with the bridge bracket. Three bolts hold the compressor between the bridge and tensioner bracket.
To match the style of the rest of the pulleys, Billet Specialties includes a compressor clutch cover. Install the cap screws finger tight and then make a 1/4 turn on a wrench. Over tightening these fasteners can damage to the compressor clutch, so don’t do it.
In order to install the Billet Specialties manifold adapter for your A/C lines, you will first need to remove the pressure port covers. The adapter will bolt in place using the existing holes.
We put the block off plate back on the compressor to protect it while it was not in use. If you do not plan to connect the A/C lines immediately, we recommend doing the same.
The Power Master alternator comes with the alternator fan and pulley pre-installed. All you need to do is mount it to the brackets. Place the alternator between the bridge bracket and alternator bracket, aligning the alternator bosses with the bridge bracket. The alternator secures with the two mounting bolts.
The final item to install is the power steering pump. Billet Specialties includes standoffs on the driver’s side of the block that threads on more of their stainless standoffs to give the power steering bracket its proper alignment with the belt. The three standoffs secure the power steering bracket with the socket head cap screws. The power steering pump is mounted by two more socket head caps through the power steering pump face. Rotate the pump by hand to gain proper access to the two bolts.
Installing the belt using the tensioner designed by Billet Specialties is simple.
“The tensioner is designed specifically for that belt length, for that kit,” Sandoval says. “It is not a generic tensioner from another application.” Wrap the supplied Goodyear Gatorback belt around the pulleys. When it comes to the tensioner, use a socket starting at the 12 o’clock position and rotate it clockwise. This will move the tensioner assembly up. Slide the pulley on the tensioner bracket and secure the mounting bolt. Return the socket back to the 12 o’clock position and you’re done.
Easy as Cake!
Having the engine out of the car was definitely a big advantage and a huge factor in getting this kit installed in a timely manner, but this can also be done easily with a completed vehicle. Billet Specialties has gone to great lengths designing their Tru Trac Top Mount kit for simplicity, as well as with top-shelf components. The instruction manual is easy to follow and includes detailed pictures that allowed us to put our front drive system on in a few hours.